“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend springs from their heartfelt advice.”
—Proverbs 27:9 NIV
In earlier posts I have presented tributes to my mother, my father, my wife, her mother, her father, our son, Mari’s Clique, and others. Now I would like to present a piece that I wrote and presented orally to honor a female friend and mentor in the Tulsa religious publishing field.
Although she was fifteen years younger than I was, Cris Bolley was instrumental in getting me, a Southern Baptist at the time, involved in copyediting for the Tulsa Charismatic and pentecostal community after my initial job as French-English translator and editorial assistant for the Obsorn Foundation came to an abrupt end.
For the whole story, read my tribute to Cris (below), which I delivered and presented to her as a scroll at a special ceremony to recognize her and her contributions to Harrison House Publishers in 1996.
I offer this tribute now because it was on Memorial Day in 1977—thirty-five years ago—that I traveled from Tulsa, where I had been working as a French-English translator since February, down to our hometown of McGehee, Arkansas, to move Mari and our two sons up here to join me in what was to become “My Oklahomian Exile.”
Cris Bolley, whom I had met on that job, was to become one of my closest friends and my mentor in the field of religious publication about which I knew absolutely nothing at that time. (For a description of my beginning days as an ill-prepared and ill-equipped freelance religious copyeditor, read the second part of my earlier post titled “Life Is Reg’lar/My Mother’s Bible.”)
A Tribute to Cris Bolley
Delivered at Harrison House Publishers
on August 18, 1996
“The image of friendship is truth.”
“The best and most beautiful things in the world
cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart.”
—Helen Keller, taken from a plaque
given to Jimmy Peacock by Cris Bolley
Twenty years ago next February, I moved to Tulsa to work as a French-English translator for T.L. Osborn, a man whom I, as a lifelong Southern Baptist, had never heard of. After about a year, I was made an editorial assistant helping to produce all of the printed materials for the Osborn Foundation, including the regular magazine Faith Digest, published in four languages.
It was while I was at OS/FO that I made the acquaintance of a young couple, Jim and Cris Bolley, and several others like Danny Lynchard who, over the course of time, were to exert an unforeseen and even unimagined influence upon my life both personally and professionally.
Four years later, when the Osborn Foundation decided to “downsize,” which included moving its publication department out of house, along with Jim and Cris and a number of others I suddenly and unexpectedly found myself out of work—which is precisely where I was when Osborn found me in the first place, except that now I was stranded on the plains of Oklahoma rather than in the Mississippi River Delta of my beloved Southeast Arkansas.
Some months later, after I had again exhausted all possible hopes of finding suitable employment, I received an unexpected call—from none other than Cris Bolley. It seemed that after leaving OS/FO Cris had gone to work for a place called Harrison House, which had expanded to the point that it was in need of outside editorial assistance. Like Miriam, who suggested her own mother to Pharaoh’s daughter as a nursemaid for baby Moses, Cris was kind enough to suggest Jimmy Peacock to the HH “powers that be.”
I, of course, quickly accepted the offer, thinking that it would provide me a bit of much needed income while I looked for a “real job”—preferably, of course, as a university instructor back home in “the Holy Land.”
That was in September 1981, fifteen years ago next month. Needless to say, neither the job nor the return to “the Holy Land” ever materialized, while the work at Harrison House gradually increased and expanded.
Meanwhile, Cris enjoyed such favor that she quickly rose to occupy several very important positions, eventually becoming editor-in-chief. Her favor was so complete, in fact, and her rise so quick and phenomenal, that I soon began referring to her as “Queen Esther”—to which, I must admit, I have tried throughout the years to play the role of “Cousin Mordecai.”
Speaking of cousins, the French have an expression, “Je ne suis pas le cousin du roi—I am not the king’s cousin,” meaning, “I’m not just a distant relative; I’m very close to the throne.” In my case, being no fool, I tried to make the most of being “the queen’s cousin”—without realizing the full implication of another French expression, noblesse oblige—literally, “nobility obligates,” but perhaps more freely and more scripturally translated, “Unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required” (Luke 12:48).
Over the intervening years, besides the original opportunity afforded me of serving as a royal scribe to Her Majesty, much has been given to me as a result of my favored relationship to Queen Esther, and much has been required of me.
For all of these blessings I am most humbly grateful—first of all to God, then to Harrison House itself, but also to the one who has borne the burden through the years of having to put up with Cousin Mordecai’s totally unsolicited advice and totally incessant complaints. (I have told Cris so many times and in so many ways that I want to go home, I am amazed that she didn’t tell me to do so long ago! But, on the other hand, among many other things, nobility does oblige patience.)
In the movie Educating Rita, a young coed approaches a dour middle-aged college professor asking him to tutor her in her studies. Reluctantly and against his will or better judgment, for some reason I cannot recall, the professor is obliged (there’s that word again!) to agree.
If you saw that film, you will remember that over its course it became more and more questionable as to who was tutoring whom, as the enthusiastic and vivacious young student began to break down the walls of cynicism and disillusionment in the aging scholar. By the end of the movie, it is clear that while he has indeed mentored her in literature, she has mentored him in life—with the result that they each go their separate ways with a different perspective and an altered prospect for the future.
That parable is perhaps the closest I can come to describing the indescribable—that is, what Queen Esther . . . Rita . . . Cris Bolley, has done for Mordecai . . . the professor . . . Jimmy Peacock.
While I cannot speak for others, though I am sure it is true for virtually everyone who has come under her influence, in my own case, borrowing from another popular recent movie, I can truthfully say: “Thanks, Cris, for being my friend and helping me to become what I am today. To a very real extent I am . . . Mrs. Bolley’s Opus. So now that you are a published author, Rita, here’s your diploma!”
Note: Since this piece was originally written in 1996 Cris Bolley has continued her academic studies and added MA and LPCC after her name. To understand the meaning and significance of the term “Mrs. Bolley’s Opus,” a reference to a popular movie at the time titled Mr. Holland’s Opus, go to this Web site.
However, although Cris Bolley was easily the greatest influence in my becoming a professional copyeditor and amateur writer, there were several other women (besides Cris and Mari) who also encouraged me in my literary efforts. Following are two examples from other women who published complimentary remarks about my writing and my love for my native state:
“Listen up . . . y’all! I would like to introduce you to that smooth talkin’ and slow walkin’ Southern Gentleman fondly known around Harrison House as . . . Mr. Hey [a reference to my usual Southern-style form of address], who is a consulting editor for Harrison House . . . . He keeps very busy editing manuscripts, typing transcripts, proofreading, writing articles about our authors, composing back-liners for our books, and much more. His given name is Jimmy Peacock and he hails from that great state of Arkansas which he considers his own personal Promised Land. . . . Here is just a little reminder to you YANKEES out there. According to Jimmy, the South WILL RISE AGAIN . . . even if it takes the rapture to do it!”
Harrison House Newsletter, 1986
“Jimmy Peacock, Sapulpa, Oklahoma. No one could be more steeped in the lore of his home state, Arkansas, . . . than Jimmy. He has a publishing business for religious needs and he also writes homespun stories about the region, drawing on his childhood experiences. Our favorite is the one about getting electric lights for the first time in his boyhood home. Jimmy is easy to identify with as most of us can find ourselves in his stories.”
—Virginia Peacock Whitehead,
Peacock Family Association of the South, 1985